Waitangi Treaty Grounds
RIGHT: A pair of the Maori dancers at the Treaty Grounds
ERIC SCOTT May 9, 2014
I’VE BEEN to a lot of places around the world, but nowhere as confusing at New
Zealand. My wife and I spent ten days on the North Island and I still don’t know
fully where we went!
I just could not get my head around the Maori town names which ail sounded s
similar, but we did go to the Bay of Islands where there was one name I did
remember – Waitangi.
A visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a fascinating afternoon experience.
With dance performance, a guided tour and a look at history with a tour of The
Treaty House with a complete rundown on the events of 1840 when the treaty
was signed by the British Government and the Maori chiefs and on the double
dealing both sides accused the other of.
But first it was the Maori experience inside the Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of
Assembly) a beautifully carved traditional meeting house. There the Maori
dancer went through their paces – and of course gave us a scary Haka.
The performance group, Te Pitowhenua, gave us an introduction to New
Zealand’s indigenous culture with performances of waiata (singing), poi,
stick games, Māori weaponry, as well as the famous haka.
This came after the noisy traditional Māori welcome before we went in.
It ran for around 35 minutes and then the costumed locals joined us outside for heaps of photos.
Next, while awaiting the 50 minute guided tour we took in the reconstructed Treaty House where James Busby conducted much of his official business as the British government’s representative in New Zealand from 1833 to 1840. It was also home for James and his wife Agnes and their six children.
After being left derelict for many years it was rebuilt and today the displays show the original bedroom and parlour as they might have looked in 1840. In other rooms an exhibition features everyday life in the Busby household, on the farm and around the Bay of Islands in the 1830s and 1840s. Other displays tell the story of the gift of the Waitangi estate to the nation and the restoration of the house.
There is a real feeling of live history in the place.
The tour proved fascinating too. The guide was a young Maori woman who told us the Treaty story and talked about the key personalities and events that shaped New Zealand history. We sat under a tree by the flagstaff that marks the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed. The flags flying are the three official flags that New Zealand has had since 1834 – the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (the earliest), the Union Jack (from 1840) and the New Zealand flag (from 1902).
We saw the huge ceremonial war canoe, 35 metres long and weighing six tonnes dry and 12 when out on the water. They say it takes 78 paddlers to move the thing. I could believe that.
We would have loved to stay on for the evening concert and hāngi but we ran out of time. The evening starts with the opening of the hāngi (earth oven), followed by a cultural performance in Te Whare Rūnanga and hāngi dinner at Whare Waka Cafe. It runs from 5.30–8.30 pm, Wednesday and Saturday evenings from January to March. The cost is: adult, $105, children (10-15) $50 and children (5-9)$30,
The Treaty Grounds are about three hours drive from Auckland.
The dance show runs for 35 minutes at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm October to April. And 11 am and 1 pm from May – September. Entry is $25 for adult international visitors, $10 Children (up to 17 years) with free entrance for accompanying parent or caregiver.